Monday, October 26, 2020

Mr. C!

Thomas Edward Bosley was born in Chicago on October 1, 1927.  Like many of his generation, he served his country during World War 2, enlisting in the Navy after high school.  Following the war, he returned to the U.S. and attended DePaul University, where he made his stage debut as an actor.

After graduation, Bosley moved to New York City, intent on making a name for himself on the Broadway stage.  That break came in 1959, when he was cast as New York Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia in the long-running musical Fiorello!. Bosley won a Tony Award for his performance, and soon Hollywood was calling.

He landed his first film role in 1963, playing opposite Natalie Wood in the film Love With the Proper Stranger.  You can watch that film in its entirety here.  Other early films included Divorce American Style (1967), Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) and Gus (1976), the story of a mule who becomes a professional football player.  Check out a commercial for it here.  Laughs a-plenty!

Bosley also made guest appearances on many popular television series throughout the 1960s.  These included roles on Bonanza, Bewitched and Get Smart.  He also appeared in a number of Hallmark Hall of Fame productions, including Arsenic and Old Lace (1962), a version that also featured Boris Karloff and Tony Randall.  

All of this was leading up to the role that Bosley is most famously associated with, that of Howard Cunningham on Happy Days.  Beginning in 1974, the series ran for 11 seasons and 255 episodes, making household names of the entire cast.  The series was created by Garry Marshall and led to several spin-offs, including Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy and my personal favorite, Joanie Loves Chachi.

After Happy Days, Bosley landed a recurring role on the CBS series Murder, She Wrote, playing local sheriff Amos Tupper.  Over four seasons, he only appeared in nineteen episodes, but he is fondly remembered by fans of the series.  He officially left in 1989, when he began starring in his own series, The Father Dowling Mysteries.  Based on the novels by Ralph McInerny, the series saw Bosley as a Catholic priest solving murders, abductions and whatnot.  It ran for three seasons.  You can check out the series intro here.

In 1994, Bosley returned to his roots on Broadway, originating the role of Maurice in Disney's Beauty and the Beast.  For the next fifteen years, he'd continue working on television as well, with guest appearances on such series as Touched by an Angel and One Tree Hill.  He'd also revive Howard Cunningham on an episode of Family Guy.  His final role was on the 2010 animated series Betsy's Kindergarten Adventures, voicing school principal Richard Warner. 

Bosley battled lung cancer in his final years.  By 2010, he was no longer able to work and he suffered from a series of health conditions, including a staph infection that ultimately took his life on October 19.  He had just celebrated his 83rd birthday.

He was laid to rest at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills in a field adjacent to its majestic chapel.

Location: God's Acre, 1738, Space #4

The inscriptions on his marker denote his family and career.
  • "Beloved husband, father. grandfather, brother, uncle"
  • "Fiorello, sheriff, priest...and forever Mr. C"
  • "I'm drifting too, dreaming of you, til tomorrow comes" - this final inscription is a lyric from the song 'Til Tomorrow" from Fiorello.  You can hear Kate Smith really sell the song here.  And kudos to you if you got that reference.
Rest in peace, Mr. C.

  • Although Father Dowling was a devout Catholic, Bosley was very active in his Jewish faith.

  • The Happy Days pilot was filmed in 1972, but ABC was not happy with the final product, opting to pass on making it a series.  Bosley did not even appear in the production, which only featured series regulars Ron Howard, Anson Williams and Marion Ross.  Looking for a return on its investment, ABC recycled the pilot into the anthology series Love, American Style.  You can watch that intro here.  However, the network revived the project in 1974, following the theatrical success of George Lucas's film American Graffiti

  • One of the things I like most about writing this blog is finding works or performances in a  celebrity's past that I never knew about before.  Take for example the anti-smoking PSA Let's Call it Quits that Bosley appeared in with his Happy Days co-star Marion Ross in 1974.  It's a 30-minute episode filmed entirely on the sets of The Brady Bunch!  They even got Brady brat Robbie Rist (Cousin Oliver) to play one of their kids.  Talk about trippy.  Check it out here.

  • Bosley appeared as a panelist on the popular Match Game '75.  Watch one of his episodes here.

  • Throughout the 70s and 80s, Bosley was the spokesman for Glad trash bags and sandwich bags.  Here's one of my favorites.

  • Ever wonder what became of the Happy Days characters after the series finale?  One enterprising author tried to answer that question in his novel Who Killed the Fonz?, a whodunnit set in 1984.  I haven't read it yet, but my money is on Chuck!  Pick up a copy from Amazon.

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